After some compromise, and a few exclusions, the proposed revisions to the rules and bylaws of the Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (MTGCD) were adopted by the board of directors Thursday.
The board’s legal counsel, Ty Embrey, who previously served as general counsel for the Texas Senate Water Advisory Council and the Joint Senate and House Committee on Water Resources, presented the proposed changes to the board and explained that the changes were needed not only to address the recent annexation of Bosque County into the MTGCD but to comply with changes to Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code.
Most of the changes were in the definition sections of the rules and revisions that will allow Boque County well owners the same claims and registration periods that were granted to Erath and Comanche County residents following the establishment of the MTGCD in May 2004.
For owners of existing wells, there will be a one year registration period, Nov. 15, 2009 until Nov. 15, 2010, to apply for a grandfathered permit. Currently, grandfathered permits fall into two categories, active or inactive. After the 2010 deadline, well owners will be required to apply for an operating permit.
The issue of grandfathered permits caused concerned among the board members and finally led to the exclusion of three of the proposed amendments including the definitions of desired future condition (DFCs) and managed available groundwater (MGA) and sections 3.1 and 3.2 in the MTGCD rules.
The arguments were primarily presented by board members Ed Dittfurth, of Stephenville, and Rodney Stephens and George Bingham, of Comanche.
DFCs are set by groundwater districts and groundwater management areas (GMAs). GMA8, which is one of 16 in the state and includes the MTGCD, two major aquifers - the Trinity and the northern portion of the Edwards Balcones Fault Zone, has already set the DFCs for the region. DFCs outline how districts want the aquifers to look in 50 years.
Dittfurth said he was prepared to leave the portions of the rules relative to the DFCs out of the amendments due to the fact that the current projected outlook is based on bad figures.
“The Texas Water Development Board has already said the science behind the numbers is no good,” Dittfurth said.
Embrey explained that the definition and corresponding rules simply provide notice to well owners that the state legislature can change the terms of permits based on the condition and availability models as set forth in Chapter 36 of the water code.
The idea still struck a bad note with Bingham.
“I will say it again, a grandfathered well is a grandfathered well,” Bingham said. “And this says we can revoke those permits.”
Stephens said he would feel more comfortable leaving those portions of the rules out until the facts and figures were accurate.
“In or out, we are still subject to them (the state laws),” MTGCD Manager Joe Cooper said.
Still, Dittfurth said including the rules would mean the board was putting in writing facts and figures with which they did not agree.
“I wouldn’t have pushed for the district without the protection of grandfathered wells,” Bingham said. “They need to be protected.”
Embrey said if the district was ever at a point when the groundwater supplies were low, how to approach the issue would be the board’s decision.
“When it gets to the point that the district can no longer issue permits, you can choose not to issue more operating permits rather than retire grandfathered wells,” Embrey said.
Dittfurth made the motion to accept the rules without the questionable definitions and rules and the board unanimously agreed. But it was decided that they would consider an amendment to do away with the inactive well term, making all grandfathered wells fall under the same category at a future meeting and offer peace of mind to owners of such wells.